Friday 26th November 1993 After dinner 19:30
My Dad was absolutely horrified. He stared angrily at the telephone handset. “Mrs Vaughan! Why are you ringing me at home on a Friday evening?”
“I have just heard that they are planning to close Whitby Park Hospital.”
“Not exactly, Mrs Vaughan. They are converting it into a community resource centre. That way, local residents will still benefit from it. There will be a dietician, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, community nurses and volunteer counsellors. They intend to recruit an art therapist and a walks coordinator.”
“A walks coordinator!”
“Yes, Mrs Vaughan. Gentle exercise like walking has both physical and psychological benefits.”
“I am well aware of that, Desmond. I go for a walk every morning: perfectly coordinated by myself!”
“Not everyone is as lucky as you, Mrs Vaughan.” My Dad looked up at the ceiling and shook his head.
“Hmmm . . .” Mrs Vaughan grunted unhappily. “So you are suggesting that opening a community resource centre makes up for the closure of 25 community hospital beds?
“Not exactly, but . . .”
“It is a Health Authority ploy, Desmond. You know that as well as I do. They want to save money by shutting the community hospital and they hope to soften the blow by opening a resource centre. A resource centre will not help the bed situation in Portmere Hospital. At the moment, there are 5 elderly patients blocking beds because they cannot manage at home and there is nowhere else for them to go. There will be even more bed blocking if we lose 25 community hospital beds.”
“Don’t forget the care homes, Mrs Vaughan.”
“All the local care homes are full. Percy Potter has just been sent to a care home in Shropshire. It was the only one available. It’s a two hour drive from here.”
My Dad paused: “I think that the main issue, Mrs Vaughan,” he was using his most considered and diplomatic tone, “is that community hospitals are no longer thought a safe option . . . in a modern health service that is . . .”
“Not like hospital corridors, then?”
“Valerie, we . . .”
“We? We? What do you mean, Desmond?”
“What do you mean, Desmond?”
“Yes, you do, Desmond.”
“Well, I am actually on the Whitby Park Hospital Closure Committee. I was persuaded to join to represent local GPs. We’ve been looking at the best options for . . .”
We all heard Valerie Vaughan slam her phone down. My Dad looked sheepishly at us and picked up the local paper.